Do you know what frozen shoulder is? This term describes a condition in which one of your shoulder is stiff and with reduced mobility. The medical term for frozen shoulder is adhesive capsulitis. Sometimes, frozen shoulder is mistaken for arthritis, although both conditions are unrelated.
The condition usually affects people between 40 and 60 and is more common in women than men. According to statistics, it affects about 3% of all people and may stiffen one or both your shoulders.
Causes and risk factors
In general, a frozen shoulder is caused by scar tissue in the shoulder joint. This makes the capsule of the joint thicken and reduces the motion of the shoulder. Recent injuries or fractures may also “freeze” your shoulder and reduce its mobility. The condition is surprisingly linked with diabetes, as most diabetics have experienced a frozen shoulder.
The risk factors for the condition are age (over 40), gender (women), diabetes and recent trauma to the shoulder joint. Thyroid problems, cardiovascular problems, stroke and Parkinson’s disease are also considered major triggers.
The 3 stages of frozen shoulder
According to experts, these are the 3 stages of the condition:
Freezing (painful stage)
In the beginning, the pain in the shoulder occurs gradually. The range of motion decreases bit by bit as well. The pain seems to be worse overnight and this stage lasts from 6-9 months.
During the second stage, the pain doesn’t progress – in fact, it might decrease. Your shoulder will be very stiff at this point, and this stage may last for 4-6 months.
After 6 months of a frozen shoulder, it will start “thawing” and slowly return to normal. The pain may strike from time to time, but you will eventually heal. The final stage may last up to 2 years.
Doctors usually diagnose a frozen shoulder based on the symptoms and a close physical exam. The severity can be determined by a test in which the doctor touches and moves certain parts of the shoulder joint. If there’s any major structural damage, it can only be diagnosed with an MRI or x-ray.
The aim of the treatment is to reduce the pain and improve the mobility of the patient’s shoulder. Luckily, it is highly successful although pretty slow. The treatment depends on the severity and may last from a few months to years. Here are the most common treatments for a frozen shoulder:
Hot and cold compresses
Alternating between hot and cold compresses on the shoulder should relieve the pain and other symptoms quickly.
TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
This technique relies on electricity which numbs the nerve endings in the spinal cord which control pain. The TENS machine has small electrodes which are applied to the painful shoulder.
Physical therapy includes certain stretches and exercises which tend to relieve pain and improve the mobility of the shoulder joint.
This technique is performed by a professional who moves the shoulder in different directions while the patient is sedated.
This minor almost non-invasive surgery is used only when the other types of treatment fail to provide results. Your doctor might order it depending on the severity of the problem.
Here are a few stretches you can try at home that can reduce the pain in your shoulder:
Stand upright and relax your shoulders, then lean forward and put your hand of the unaffected shoulder on a table. Now, let your other arm down and start swinging it in small circles. As you gain movement, start increasing the range of the motion every day.
Take a towel in your hands then grab it at the ends behind your back. Now, pull the towel with your good arm towards your shoulder and repeat the stretch 10-20 times.
As inflammation is one of the main causes of the condition, reducing it can help treat a frozen shoulder. This can be done with the 2 following natural remedies:
Beetroot, ginger and lemon juice
- 1 lemon
- 6 beets (large)
- A piece of ginger
Peel the beets, lemon and ginger, then mix everything in a blender and drink the juice fresh. The ingredients contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants which can relieve the inflammation and treat the pain.
- 1 pineapple
- 1 cucumber
- A small piece of ginger
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 8-10 celery ribs
Mix everything in a blender and drink the juice fresh to reduce the inflammation in your body and treat the pain.
The condition is preventable only if it’s caused by an injury. In this case, you need to pay more attention to the way you move your shoulder. In any other case, you’ll need to talk to a doctor about the best way to prevent a frozen shoulder.